Busy Bee Project | photo by Mike Arrison | mikearrisonphotography.com/ | courtesy of the artist
Busy Bee Project finds personal release in quarantine album I Am You
“One of the hardest parts of the quarantine was feeling separate when all I want to feel is together,” writes South Philly singer-songwriter Deb Gilmore, better known as the spirited indie-folk singer Busy Bee Project.
On their newest project, I Am You, written and recorded during the COVID-19 quarantine, Busy Bee covers a range of emotions and personal states: experiencing fear and anxiety, grappling with social and emotional distance, but also finding moments of hope and optimism along the way, culminating in a cathartic release of tension.
Sonically, Busy Bee Project navigates the worlds of introspective lo-fi indie folk and thought-provoking mindful poetry, striking a balance between forerunners Ani DiFranco and Mirah. Some songs are recorded in a more solitary manner, with acoustic guitars and atmospheric arrangements (see the opening title track), while others build out the production into, say, a gentle waltz played by a ramshackle electric ensemble (“Over and Over Again”). On “I Can Feel Everything,” we are presented with a spoken word piece about staying grounded, set to stirring synth swells.
Lyrically, Gilmore uses Busy Bee’s songs for an examination of self that extrapolates into nuggets of wisdom about our collective selves. As the title track goes: “We are bodies and we all are learning / and we have a yearning to be seen.”
On “Pleasure and Pain,” Busy Bee Project juxtaposes a jaunty melody and peppy folk strum with heavy lyrics about coming to terms with personal trauma as well as one’s own faults: “Rest easy my past, you are gone,” sings Gilmore.
An equally poignant moment arrives at the end of I Am You, where Gilmore directly addresses the quarantine and its fallout during the penultimate track “Strange”: “What a strange strange time to be alive. Thanks for being kind. / This change will change all of our lives. It’ll all be fine, and you you’ll be too.”
While that last line might provoke a bit of a mixed response depending on our personal circumstance — many of us have lost jobs during the pandemic, many of us have lost loved ones, and these lives are decidedly less than “fine” — it’s clear from looking at the entirety of I Am You that Busy Bee’s the message here is not one of oblivious bliss. The challenges of now must be faced, and for many these are struggles that we have no control over. But there’s despair over those, and there’s the promise of what’s next. That second step remains unwritten, and this song and album serve as a warm, hopeful reminder that we are the ones to do the writing.
Listen below, and grab a download of Busy Bee Project’s I Am Youon Bandcamp.